Beyond Copyright and the Evolution of Digital Music Services

Author: Hyojung Sun (University of Edinburgh)

This paper aims to provide a new perspective on the relationship between copyright and technological innovation in the music industry. Despite the popularity of the subject, most attention has been drawn to copyright’s direct impact on the music business or file-sharing activity. The process of technological innovation, however, is imbued with uncertainty, contingency and complexity, thereby, owes an elaboration on the interplay of the heterogeneous factors who have differing power and interests. Through a qualitative data analysis of interviews with a wide range of the music industry entrepreneurs and an in-depth case study of Spotify, this paper provides three key findings in copyright’s role in the evolution of digital music services. First, the sociotechnical factors, as well as the legal allegations, influenced the decline of P2P networks. Second, in the form of negotiation of licensing deals with digital music service providers, copyright contributed to a resurgence of market control. Third, the process of firms’ discovering and matching users’ demands highlights the crucial role users play in technological innovation of the digital music industry. Moving beyond the linear understanding of copyright’s impact on the technological development, this paper provides a much more complex and nuanced process of technological innovation in the music industry

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